Growing up, I was always drawn to animals, and they were drawn to me. As far back as I can remember, my parents always told everyone that I was going to become a veterinarian. When I was 10 years old, they even took me on a tour of Tufts University, to see if that's where I wanted to go to college.
I never wanted to be a vet though, and I kept telling them that. I wanted to work with animals, but I didn't want to be a doctor. When I was in high school, I worked at a local zoo, learning how to become a zookeeper. I thought that's what I wanted to do, and decided to apply to colleges that specialized in zoology.
But life went in a different direction. I ended up not attending university directly following high school. I moved to a different state and found myself in need of a job. After hitting the newspapers, I found an ad for a receptionist at a veterinary hospital. I figured, if I was going to work in an office, at least it would be one where a dog walked by every now and again.
Well, 15 years later, I work at that very same animal hospital. I moved my way up through the ranks, put myself through school, and became the head licensed veterinary technician. My dreams came true: I have a career where I get to work with animals, but I am not a doctor. I enjoy the hands-on aspect of the job, performing treatments and nursing my patients back to health. I also enjoy educating and building relationships with my clients.
How Being a Vet Tech Has Changed My Life
Becoming a vet tech has changed my life in so many ways. First of all, it has taught me so much. The amount of medical knowledge and education seemed overwhelming, at first. Once I absorbed it—or should I say, became consumed by it—that knowledge became my life. Now, I see it and use it everywhere. I can help educate others about how to best care for their animals, and even themselves.
Anatomy is anatomy, whether it be of a dog or a human. The basics mechanics of mammals are similar. So being a vet tech has been helpful in human medical experiences, as well. I have put that knowledge to use in emergency first aid situations. I have a broader range of understanding in how the world works, in general, down to an atomic level. I even understand nutrition, metabolism, and the food industry better. All of this knowledge has helped me grow as a person, and become the best I can be.
Becoming a vet tech has also changed my general lifestyle. It has made me a happier, healthier person. The hours at the hospital are long, so you need stamina and endurance. The work is physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding, so you have to be strong. The environment is stressful and unpredictable, so you need to be ready for anything, adaptable, and balanced. Your lifestyle has to support all of these qualities.
Over time, I learned that I had to be as healthy as possible to endure this job. I started eating better, exercising, and taking better care of myself. In order to be the best caretaker possible, you have to be centered, powerful, and capable. This job also calls at random times. The phone may ring at 2 a.m. to meet the doctor at the hospital for an emergency C-section, and you have to be ready and willing. You have to be healthy, durable, and able to sway with the wind and take things as they come.
The job has also made me a more tolerable person. Can you imagine having a job where you know exactly what is going to happen every minute of the day? I can't. Working in the clinical environment, you never know what's going to walk in the door and when. Even when the schedule looks generally mundane, it is almost guaranteed that five minutes before closing, the phone will ring and an emergency will be on its way.
On any given Thursday, my 13-hour scheduled shift can turn into three different days. Three doctors see their share of appointments and have surgeries, and there’s only one technician (lucky me!) to accommodate it all. When the splenectomy done at 9 p.m. needs an overnight nurse, it falls on me. And then someone calls out the following day, and I find myself wearing the same scrubs, eating some leftovers I had in the fridge from who knows when, and wondering why I don't just keep a toothbrush in my bag.
This isn't the first time this has happened, and I know it won't be the last. And there's no use in getting frustrated. It's just how the story goes when you live the life of a dedicated veterinary technician.
Natasha Feduik is a licensed veterinary technician with Garden City Park Animal Hospital in New York, where she has been practicing for 10 years. Natasha received her degree in veterinary technology from Purdue University. Natasha has two dogs, a cat, and three birds at home and is passionate about helping people take the best possible care of their animal companions.